Autograph manuscript, written ca. 1794–95 and transcribed in fair copy soon after 1805
Purchased in 1947
Lady Susan Vernon is the eponymous antihero of Austen's romantic black comedy. Sophisticated, seductive, and amoral, she is characterized by the scholar Marilyn Butler as "a cruising shark in her social goldfish pond." The narrative focuses on the recently widowed Susan's strategic attempts to achieve advantageous marriages for herself and her shy but intractable daughter, Frederica. Her letters, written to multiple recipients, eventually reveal the full extent of her manipulative and duplicitous character. Austen's ironic social observation is sharp and witty and, according to the scholar Christine Alexander, Lady Susan combines "all the free-ranging energy" of Austen's juvenilia "with the polish and sophistication of her later writing."
Grief, & professions of regret, & general resolutions of
prudence were sufficient to soften his heart, & make
him really confide in her sincerity. But as for my:
:self, I am still unconvinced; & plausibly as her
Ladyship has now written, I cannot make up my mind,
till I better understand her real meaning in coming
to us. — You may guess therefore my dear Madam
with what feelings I look forward to her arrival.
She will have occasion for all those attractive Powers
for which she is celebrated, to gain any share of my
regard; & I shall certainly endeavour to guard myself
against their influence, if not accompanied by some:
:thing more substantial. — She expresses a most
eager desire of being acquainted with me, & makes
very gracious mention of my children, but I am
not quite weak enough to suppose a woman who
has behaved with inattention if not with unkindness
to her own child, should be attached to any of mine.
Images provided by DIAMM on behalf of Jane Austen’s Holograph Fiction MSS: A Digital and Print Edition.
Recording of Lady Susan courtesy of Naxos AudioBooks.